Because less players equal more space to pass and move

England Qualify. Just

So, after the abysmal performance against Algeria and a bashing from media-pillar to media-post by anyone and everyone, England made it through to the final 16 of the World Cup in South Africa. Today’s game against Slovenia was the first time in 180 minutes of World Cup football England looked as though they believed they could win, and with the expectant press smelling blood like a great white, England have managed to silence their doubters for now.

Watching the game this afternoon in the blazing sunshine you could sense the nerves of the nation whenever the Slovenians pressed towards the English penalty box. The commentator on the beeb compared Slovenia to a “Third Division” team and to be honest I didn’t think that much more of them. David James was called in to action sporadically and really only had to make routine saves that Robert Green should take note of. But as the commentator compared Slovenia to the third division he also compared England to a “Premier League” club. Now with the players Capello has at his disposal the statement of being a “Premier League” team does ring true, but England should really have disposed of Slovenia with ease before those nervous final 10 minutes.

Before the competition began England were being classed as third favourites which was ridiculous. Being a glass half empty type of person I don’t really expect the bookies to be paying out for an English victory on Sunday 11th July but for the first time in this tournament I feel England are back in with a shout.

Although it was only a 1-0 victory there were commanding performances by John Terry and Matthew Upson in the centre of the defence, Aston Villa’s James Milner produced a magical performance on the right hand side providing cross after cross, one of which was dispatched emphatically by Jermaine Defoe, a player whose performance will have already converted many of the Heskey believers.

But amongst the sterling performances I was disappointed with the midfield duo Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard. Although Barry faced an uphill challenge to be fit for the finals I couldn’t help but notice the misplaced passes and poor control on numerous occasions, many of which he got away with, but with no disrespect to Slovenia if England were facing a far superior nation I suspect that things would have been a little bit nervy. It may still be rust for Barry but I really hope he shakes it off before the knockout stages.

Frank Lampard has been an integral part of the England team for many years now, he had an excellent season with Chelsea but he has not brought that form with him to the World Cup. I feel he is one of those players who is in the team because of who he is and is ‘undroppable’ as such. If there was a player in the squad who could challenge Lampard for his position in the starting XI then I would seriously consider entertaining the thought of dropping Lampard, but I don’t see Michael Carrick being the man to oust Frank from Capello’s midfield quartet. The only other way it would be possible would be to move Gerrard in to the middle of the park and play the obviously out-of-favour Joe Cole on the left, but that is not going to happen. So for now expect Lampard to be lining up on the field of play Sunday afternoon.

There you have it then, England are in the knockout stages, with a little struggle, but that is the way they have always done it, never has it been an easy ride for an England supporter. I for one am just happy after the Algeria game that we have escaped the group and as I write this it looks like it will be a clash with the old enemy, Germany…